$10 million Center Grove fieldhouse gets approval

Center Grove is moving forward with a plan to build a fieldhouse that could be used for sports, academic teams and other extracurricular activities.

School board members voted 4-0 to spend $10 million on the 59,500-square-foot student activity center, which is one of the first steps in building the facility. School board member Adam Norman was absent.

Next, school officials will work with an architectural firm to design the fieldhouse and hope to start construction in the spring.

Some features already are starting to take shape in the designs.

The fieldhouse would include a six-lane, 200-meter track and four basketball-court sized playing areas with a multipurpose floor surface, said Bill Payne, chief executive officer with Fanning and Howey, which is designing the facility.

Center Grove would be the only high school in the state with an indoor, 200-meter, six-lane track, school board member Carol Tumey said.

Officials are also looking at possibly building an elevated walking or jogging track above the floor. Outside, plans include an area called Trojan Plaza, which could be used during football games, Payne said.

Voters would not be asked to approve the project because the cost does not exceed $10 million. Taxpayers do have the option of filing a remonstrance, where petitions would be collected both for and against the project. Anyone who wants to file a petition would have until Sept. 22. No one spoke against the project in a public hearing this week.

The new facility comes after the school district spent more than $40 million on projects to renovate and expand its school buildings. The loan for the $10 million fieldhouse would be paid back over 20 years, and officials have planned for the debt so that it does not increase the tax rate, Center Grove Chief Financial Officer Paul Gabriel said.

School officials said the new facility was designed based on what parents, school officials, teachers, coaches and the community have asked for. In long-range planning meetings, meetings at the schools and talks with the superintendent, people have repeatedly asked what the school district is doing to address the need for more space for teams and clubs to practice, compete and perform, assistant superintendent Bill Long said.

Officials said the student activity center could be used by multiple groups, including sports teams; academic teams, such as robotics; and other extracurricular groups, such as band and color guard.

Plans are for the facility to be built at the southeast corner of the high school. It would be connected to the school and would require bus loading areas to be moved. Plans also include a larger weight room and an area with changing rooms, public restrooms and storage areas, Payne said.

The new facility addresses multiple goals of the school district, including safety, by providing an indoor space for people to go during bad weather during a football game or other outdoor activity, and academics, by creating space for the robotics team to compete or for science fairs to be hosted, school board member Rob Richards said.

The community could use the space, and the track could be rented out to colleges for competitions, Richards said.

Classes could use the facility during the day, and clubs and teams would not have to practice so late into the evening, allowing those students more time for schoolwork, school board member Jack Russell said.

School officials said they hope to have the new center completed by July 2017.

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Annie Goeller is managing editor of the Daily Journal. She can be reached at agoeller@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2718.